Bishop Eustace captures Diamond Classic

Posted: May 21, 2012

Zac Gallen was the bat boy who sat in the front row for the photo when Bishop Eustace Prep won the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic title in 2004.

His older brother, Jay, was a star as a junior pitcher for the Crusaders in those days.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is big time,' " Zac Gallen said. "I knew I wanted to get one of these one day."

Like his brother eight years ago, Gallen sparked Bishop Eustace to the championship of the prestigious 16-team invitational tournament.

Gallen, a junior righthander, pitched a three-hitter with seven strikeouts on Sunday night as Bishop Eustace beat Cherokee, 6-2, in the title game of the 39th annual Diamond Classic.

"Hats off to Zac Gallen," Cherokee coach Marc Petragnani said. "He was awesome."

Gallen's dominating pitching and power hitting by freshman Nick Browne and sophomore Mike Krusinski completed Bishop Eustace's surprising run through the tournament.

After beating Audubon in the tournament opener on May 12, Bishop Eustace won three games against top-10 teams in the span of 31 hours this past weekend.

The Crusaders beat then-No. 5 Holy Cross on Friday, then No. 7 Cherry Hill West on Sunday morning, and then-No. 1 Cherokee in front of a large crowd Sunday night at Eastern.

The Diamond Classic title is Bishop Eustace's fifth overall and first since 2004.

"We have so much respect for this tournament," said Bishop Eustace coach Sam Tropiano, whose team has risen to No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings. "We give it equal billing with the states."

With the public-school state tournament starting Monday, Cherokee was at a bit of a disadvantage against Bishop Eustace, which starts the Non-Public state tournament on Friday.

The Chiefs kept their top two pitchers, senior Colin Perro and junior Sean Kelly, in the holster all weekend.

"They're primed and ready to go," Petragnani said. "Hopefully, it will pay off for us in the long run."

He refused to use the looming state tournament as an excuse.

"We needed to use our whole roster to beat them, and if we couldn't do that, they deserved to win," Petragnani said.

Cherokee's first three batters reached base on an error, a walk, and an RBI double by senior shortstop Shane Garrett. The Chiefs had runners on second and third with nobody out.

But Gallen struck out the next three batters, setting the tone for the game.

"The was a big lift for me and the whole team," Gallen said. "I knew I needed to bear down and make pitches."

Gallen mixed a fastball in the 85-m.p.h. range with an effective change-up. He walked two, none after the second inning. He faced just 27 batters, 16 in the final five innings.

Gallen worked both sides of the plate and threw most of his pitches at the knees or lower.

"That's my bread and butter," Gallen said of the low strikes.

Browne got Bishop Eustace on the board with a home run in the second and added a two-run double that made it 5-2 in the fifth. Krusinski delivered a two-run, pinch-hit home run to give the Crusaders a 3-2 lead in fourth.

"It's the most wonderful thing to have a day like this," Browne said.

Tropiano noted that the Crusaders got big contributions Sunday from three freshmen -- Browne, shortstop Chris Jones, and pitcher Justin Hagenman, who worked 21/3 innings of relief in the semifinal win over Cherry Hill West.

Another young guy made a big impact, too: That third grader back in 2004, who dreamed of winning a Diamond Classic just like his big brother and made it happen.

"I have next year to try to get another one," Gallen said.


 Bishop Eustace    010 230 0 - 6 8 2

Cherokee    110 000 0 - 2 3 1

WP: Zac Gallen. LP: Matt Curry.

2B: BE-Nick Browne; C-Shane Garrett.

HR: BE-Nick Browne, Mike Krusinski.


 Bishop Eustace    300 102 0 - 6 9 0

Cherry Hill West    020 010 0 - 3 5 0

WP: Devon Smeltzer. LP: Brad Machinski.

2B: BE-Zac Gallen, Mike Krusinki, Nick Browne.

HR: CHW-Anthony Catavatchel.

St. Augustine    010 021 3 - 7 7 2

Cherokee    1150 001 x - 8 11 0

WP: Shane Coolahan. LP: Joe Gatto.

2B: C-Casey Coyle, Ryan Kelley.

HR: SA-Joe Gatto.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223,, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at

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